Many people think of domestic violence incidents as occurring between parties who are in an active relationship, but that is not a requirement. New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) protects against acts of domestic violence that occur between a spouse, former spouse, household member or individuals involved in a dating relationship, including past relationships. Such a relationship also does not have to be exclusive. Even casual dating may give rise to a claim under the PDVA, as affirmed in a recent Appellate Division case.
In DP v. SMB, the plaintiff and defendant had a relationship in college for a period of two-and-a-half years. The parties said they did not “officially date,” however, they engaged in intimate behavior in several instances. After college, they kept in touch and had intermittent work-related and personal communication for approximately twelve (12) years. After meeting for drinks with friends one night, the defendant began anonymously calling and emailing plaintiff’s wife and contacting her through social media, advising her to “not be in denial” about plaintiff’s infidelities. Soon thereafter, plaintiff sought a restraining order against defendant on his behalf and on behalf of his wife. Even after defendant was contacted by the police about her actions, defendant continued to contact plaintiff’s wife.
In determining whether the parties had a “dating relationship” as required by the PDVA, the trial Court considered several factors, including:
- Was there a minimal social interpersonal bonding of the parties over and above a mere casual fraternization?
- How long did the alleged dating activities continue prior to the acts of domestic violence alleged?
- What were the nature and frequency of the parties’ interactions?
- What were the parties’ ongoing expectations with respect to the relationship, either individually or jointly?
- Did the parties demonstrate an affirmation of their relationship before others by statement or conduct?
- Are there any other reasons unique to the case that support or detract from a finding that a “dating relationship” exists?
Despite the passage of 12 years from the time the relationship ended and the alleged harassment began, the trial Court held that the parties’ relationship was covered under the PDVA and issued a Final Restraining Order. The Appellate Division upheld the decision, indicating they were convinced that a Final Restraining Order was required to protect the plaintiff and his family from the defendant.
As the case of D.P. v. S.M.B. makes clear, a broad array of relationships may be covered under the domestic violence law, even those that have “ended” over a decade ago.
If you are a victim or have been accused of domestic violence, contact us for assistance.